Vanguard (Lagos)

2 January 2013

Nigeria: A Prayer for Nigeria

THIS, no doubt, is the appropriate note to begin the new year- with prayers for our own country. Not just because of the claim by many that the past year, 2012, was a terrible one.

One can't be sure if there would ever be a year when the whole country, to say nothing of the whole world, would be in agreement that a year has been so good nobody has something to cry about. One cannot deny last year was a hard year for Nigerians. Evidence abound that it was a tough year and up to the last few days, many could still point to incidents that brought tears to their eyes. There were still terrorist killings, unprovoked cowardly attacks that have been the hallmark of life in many parts of the country.

These are acts of terror that our rulers are yet to find appropriate answers to as they continue to sing different tunes from both sides of the mouth. We know all too well of the kidnappings that have become big business in many parts of the South-east. One doesn't know of what part of the world where kidnapping is a means of livelihood for many as it has become in the Nigerian South-east. Surely, for these hostage takers, one business is as good as another. And of course, there was the fire in the business district of Lagos apparently caused by fireworks. Shops loaded with goods, cars and, perhaps, one life were lost.

And this last incident, if no other, testifies to the man-made, self-inflicted nature of our calamities. They, unlike what confronts many in different parts of the world, are results of our own irresponsible and unaccountable ways. It is for this reason we all must pray, right at the start of another year, that we keep from the pitfalls that have caused many to rank year 2012 as one of the worst in their memories. But as I have said the last time we met here, if we look well enough many of us would still have reasons to give thanks. Yet before any song of thanksgiving, as we might expect in 2013, we should first pray.

The first thing or people we must pray for are the class of Nigerians that have control over the means of governance. These Nigerians need prayers not just as a spiritual means of fortifying them for the challenges of governance but for the very fact that they are a major cause of the problems afflicting our country. I have mentioned the man-made nature of our afflictions. What I need to add is that the rot among us persists because the people we have entrusted our lives to hold in their hands and very often use the instruments to terminate our lives. We can quickly see this from the very way they struggle to bring the country down on its knees financially.

In spite of all we have seen in far wealthier parts of the world where the culture of profligate spending has brought ruin to the majority, in spite of warnings from Greece, Italy, Spain and even France among the wealthier nations of the world- in spite of these warning signs we all see, which government officials continue to mouth and for which they urge on Nigerians belt-tightening measures, Nigerian rulers continue to live as if they have another country. Indeed, we know many of them are Nigerians only by name but have their sights set elsewhere, in other parts of the world where they have laundered the country's wealth. The truth, however, is that the vast majority of Nigerians have no other place to call home, nowhere else to run when 'the come comes to become'!

What I am alluding to in essence is the astronomically high cost of governance in Nigeria. Nigeria haemorrhages financially, on a scale that is fatal to our national wellbeing. One only needs to read, see and hear of what goes on around us- the lavish and expensive lifestyles of both so-called elected and imposed leaders of the people, from a little government establishment, say a ministry, to local government council and higher up- one only needs to observe how these Nigerians literally gorge themselves on what should go into the development of the country in different spheres, to realise what danger lurks ahead. The grasping nature of our rulers makes the future of this country bleak. Everyone wants to be in government, to be part of the Abuja and other capital cities' crowd. But only for what they can grab for themselves. Our rulers preach prudence and modesty but live with reckless abandon and fritter away the wealth of the nation. Financial experts in both the public and private sectors issue loud, desperate warnings on how our financial ship heads for a precipice but the people responsible for this appear totally deaf to these warnings and blind to the signs that are all around us.

The three arms of government, especially the executive and legislature, are pushing Nigeria in the direction of financial ruin. They are powering us all down the freeway of national destruction. The vast wealth of this country is spent on the personal wellbeing of our rulers, from the presidency where we count in billions the amount that goes into feeding the president and his hangers-on; maintain his fleet of aircraft that dwarfs that of wealthier nations even though Nigeria has no national carrier; build to personal taste a vice presidential palace which cost runs into nearly twenty billion Naira. We are not even looking at the states yet where governors hold sway, or the various federal ministries.

The National Assembly is peopled with so-called lawmakers who appropriate undisclosed billions of amount for the personal use of members. The usual checks and balance that is the hallmark of the presidential system we claim to run is absent because everybody is busy scratching each other's back. Our federal legislators should question the wisdom of spending billions of Naira on the Vice President's mansion but would do nothing about it because they know their own share of the billions would come from other means.

In government agencies, ministries and parastatals, the story of criminal profligacy abounds- so too at the local government level. Yet, hundreds of millions of qualified Nigerians are without jobs, barely surviving each day on crumbs too poor for dogs to feed upon. A million graduates will turn up with applications for a thousand job openings. Ever wonder how many Nigerians could be taken off the unemployment queue with the extra billions being spent on Namadi Sambo's house? Let us pray then that we have rulers who think first of the country and its future before thinking of their own pockets. Have a great 2013!

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